Naim Aburaddi, a Cal State San Bernardino communication studies graduate student, hasn’t been able to see his family since 2014 after he graduated high school and moved to Turkey, where he studied at Istanbul University. After earning his bachelor’s, he then journeyed to CSUSB and has been working toward his master’s since 2020.
Aburaddi comes from Gaza, a place in Palestine that has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007. The blockade makes it difficult for people to enter and exit the country and often leaves ambitious students like Aburaddi stranded, unable to pursue their dreams.
As the recipient of the 2021 Graduate Extended Reality Research Scholarship for $3,000, which supports graduate students who are interested in doing research within the field of immersive reality, Aburaddi hopes to make it easier for those students living in Gaza to communicate with the world and share their stories.
“People have lost a lot of opportunities due to this siege,” Aburaddi wrote in his project proposal for his scholarship application. “A lot of students, including me, got scholarships from prestigious universities around the world, but they could not benefit from that because they could not get out and attend the semester on time.”
Using 360-degree cameras provided by the Extended Reality for Learning Lab (xREAL) at CSUSB, Aburaddi hopes this technology will allow students in Gaza to film or livestream their presentations and performances. Unlike Zoom meetings, these cameras will provide audiences with an immersive experience that is more detailed, realistic and engaging.
In his project proposal, “How can 360-degree Camera Technology be Utilized as a Decolonizing Tool?” Aburaddi argues that virtual reality (VR) technology can be used to “help people in Gaza to break these boundaries and deliver their messages to the world.” He explains how older video technology often does not provide viewers with the “whole picture.”
“We have never been able to represent ourselves and deliver our narrative to the world,” he said. “Now is the time to use our research to help the world know what’s going on and make a change.”
To deploy his methods, Aburaddi plans to collaborate with a nonprofit organization in Gaza so that students have a space where they may work and access these cameras. He also hopes these cameras can be used to document the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“I’m from there, so it’s more than research,” he said. “It’s [doing] something to help other people because I see they are suffering.”
Aburaddi said he is grateful for how the university has supported his research. He received guidance from his project supervisor Ahlam Muhtaseb, professor of media studies, and was encouraged to apply for the scholarship by Mihaela Popescu, professor of communication studies and faculty director of the xREAL Lab.
“All of these tools we have are amazing,” said Aburaddi. “I think it’s a golden opportunity for me and other scholars to apply our research and use it to benefit other people, especially marginalized groups who don’t have the opportunity to do all of this themselves.”
Aburaddi received his bachelor’s in journalism, communication and media studies from Istanbul University in 2019. He is expected to graduate from CSUSB with his master’s degree in communication studies in 2023.
To learn more about the xREAL Lab, visit the xREAL Lab website.